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Three skills of digital transformation winners

Published: 2020-09-23

Business is transformed by technology, from how markets are shared to daily operations and how organizations are built. But why do some companies seem to be so much faster and more effective in turning new technologies into revenue?

Digitalization offers organizations a whole new and diverse set of tools with which to play. Also, it enables and creates new models for delivering value and generating revenue. While it is vital to understand how emerging technologies work so that one can grasp the potential and opportunities they offer, it is important to remember that the competitive edge is not created by the technology but by the ideas and strategy of how to use the technologies within the organization´s context as well as the capability to act upon the ideas and make them reality.

Whereas the immediate capabilities for detecting the opportunities and executing them successfully vary among organizations, it can be learned by any organization. In the end it comes to three crucial skills that the organization must master: Sight for possibilities, ability to select the ones with biggest potential and the strength to execute.

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Sight for possibilities – The ability to capture interesting new opportunities

The business environment is moving fast, and new technologies and their applications become visible in various contexts. It is not only the big buzz words, megatrends and huge disruptive ideas but also the small improvements to existing technologies that can provide an opportunity to seize. The environment is in constant, often incremental, flux and it is easy for organizations to develop blind spots: to get too occupied with the present, for example, or get biased with having a long-term vision without concrete roadmap to make it reality.

The ability to grasp new opportunities depends on multiple factors, such as organizational culture, amount of internal information exchange, current capabilities and the ability to balance between short-term and long-term planning, but one key in detecting the new is to remember to look outside the organization, to the customers and the business environment. Whereas the quantitative customer research methods can give you answers to what is happening, the different participative methods to get in touch with your customer´s world, such as observing, interviewing or co-creative methods, will provide you valuable insight in terms of why. Also, reinforcing culture for innovative thinking and information sharing within the organization and looking also beyond your own field in discovering interesting new ideas will broaden up the horizon for opportunities and give you a better sense of your business environment

Intelligence to focus – Understanding the value and feasibility

The problem of becoming incapable of pointing out the most potential ideas is often discussed regarding innovations. But, this is true also for the new business opportunities enabled by digitalization and brings us to the second crucial skill: the ability and means to see which of the various exiting new things make sense in your organization´s context.

To take full advantage, you need able to understand the potential, risks and costs of an idea. For example, you should strive to understand better the new technology and the opportunities it offers but also use that knowledge to understand whether those opportunities are relevant to the functionality of your organization or to your business environment and customers. The true skill lies in the ability to test and validate multiple assumptions quickly and efficiently to spot the ones that can offer true added value. Building proof-of-concepts and rapid testing with real stakeholders will tell you much about the desirability, feasibility and viability of your idea before making big investments.

Strength to execute – Knowhow and effort to implement plans

Can you efficiently create and act on your new roadmap while still running day-to-day business? Are you able to agree internally on the methods and timelines?

When it comes to execution, internal alignment on the opportunities to seize and invest in is crucial. Here also the understanding of the amount of change required and plan to manage it becomes extremely important. Here it is no longer only about what but rather how, and the success depends greatly on both, especially when you are about to introduce something completely new to the organization. It comes down to everyday tasks: Do you have the right partners, relevant knowledge and competence at hand and do you have a process to track, manage and learn during the process?

Based on our experience, the ability to be open to the hints of new opportunities and assess which ones are worth pursuing, together with the tools to proceed from visions and plans to actions can be said to be the three major areas an organization should strive to master in order to gain competitive advantage from technologies and digitalization. As simple as it sounds, there is not one-size-fits-all answers on how to implement these skills that are often cross-organizational. Yet, this can be very useful framework to analyze your current situation and finding the places for improvement.

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Posted by: Tarmo Pajunen

Digital Sustainability

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